We are developing the social individualist meta-context for the future. From the very serious to the extremely frivolous... lets see what is on the mind of the Samizdata people.

Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

The debasement of institutions

If you have not seen these short documentaries… Part 1 from 2016, Part 2 from 2017, it well worth your time.

I can see this exchange in the very near future…

Prospective Employer: “So which university did you go to?”

Prospective Employee: “Um, actually I didn’t go to univers…”

Prospective Employer: “You’re hired!”

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How to win like Trump

Marc Sidwell’s book How To Win Like Trump: Nine Simple Rules for Victory Against the Odds explains how Donald Trump won the US presidential election. It is written in the style of a self-help book and in simple Trump-like language. This makes it a fast and easy read: it does not take itself too seriously. And it avoids “Consequences of Erudite Vernacular Utilized Irrespective of Necessity”. But it is packed with insight.

For example, politicians and the press are between them largely acting out a fiction which has similarities to the kayfabe of professional wrestling.

Trump had two insights, thanks to his grasp of kayfabe. First, Trump recognised the widespread fakery of modern politics. That let him see past the curtain of narrative, revealing the limited insight of political experts and the vulnerability of “inevitable” candidates whether Clinton, Rubio, Bush or Cruz. Second, Trump realised that by injecting the kind of entertainment and character common in wrestling narratives into the meek, grey world of political illusion, he could slam everyone else to the mat.

[…]

It’s underappreciated how much of the mainstream media’s tremendous influence lies in its power to frame big events. Hundreds of thousands of New York Times readers and millions of public radio listeners get taught the same framing story, and learn the socially acceptable limits for discussing whatever just happened.

As such, media organisations and a one-man master framer like Trump were always going to tread on each other’s toes. But Trump had an efficient, reframing response. All attacks on Trump through the media got reframed as evidence of a biased media persecuting a man it hated. This sidelined questions about the merit of any accusation. It established a catchall frame presenting Trump in a flattering light. And when negative stories did run, they only reinforced Trump’s favoured frame. That’s how to frame your way to victory.

It explains that Trump’s tweeting is partly about direct contact with people, and partly about quickly testing the product with real users.

Trump’s constant movement is also an endless process of improvement. It’s always looking for what works better. It is an evolving strategy, one that never gets to the end of the line. And that made his presidential bid more like a startup than a campaign. The Lean Startup movement believes in constantly evolving towards a product that fits the market through a cycle of building, measuring and learning. Rather than sweating to get something perfect, Lean Startups aim for the minimum viable product. Then they test it on an audience. Get it in front of a customer. See what they make of it. Improve it. Rinse and repeat.

This explains his constant changes of mind and hiring and firing, something that his opponents have claimed as a weakness. Another supposed weakness is his apparently defensive and petulant fighting back at anyone who criticises him, as he did with Megyn Kelly.

There is one very, very big way — and it’s so big, gigantic really, massive — that Trump’s haters and losers fail to get him. They think his temperament is unpredictable. Yuuge mistake. Believe me.

Marc argues that Trump’s consistent strategy is to maintain peace until he is attacked, and then consistently fire back, and that this is good game theory.

Trump’s essentially peaceful strategy relies on consistency and clarity to work. Every time he does what he always does, he reminds people of the consequences. The more disproportionate his reactions, the more Trump signals he is willing to bear any cost to get someone back.

This makes him not such a bad person to be holding the nuclear button:

What Trump understands by instinct, and demonstrates consistently in action, are the principles of nuclear deterrence. No first use. Credible threat of massive retaliation. That policy has kept the world safe from nuclear holocaust. Its creator Thomas Schelling worked it out using game theory, winning the Nobel for economics in 2005 in recognition of his breakthrough. Schelling even worked out that it helps if your enemies also think you are a little bit crazy and capable of attacking them at very high cost to yourself. It’s called the Madman Theory. President Nixon used it.

I am left wondering just how much of Trump’s strategies are luck rather than judgement, and it remains to be seen how long they will continue to work. But I do have more understanding of how the things he does that work, work. It is nice to see it all enumerated and made obvious.

Highlights I have not mentioned so far include the description of the way Trump picked off his opponents one by one in the primaries, how he used Clinton’s 3AM phone call commercial against her, and how he makes himself relatable to ordinary Americans. And there is a good bit about how Trump gets inside his opponents’ OODA loops (a concept I heard about years ago from one of my favourite sources of inspiration, Eric Raymond).

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Samizdata quote of the day

The facts are unambiguous: despite public perceptions to the contrary, extreme poverty has declined significantly, to the point where its end may actually be in sight. So next time you hear someone bemoaning a supposed rise in world poverty, encourage them to have a look at the evidence for themselves.

Chelsea Follet

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Beware the ides of March?

Debt is the Fed’s basic problem, and it doesn’t know how high rates can go without triggering a financial crisis. And even if the Fed could make an assessment for America, there is the knock-on effect of the Fed’s interest rate policy on foreign dollar borrowers, as well as on the Eurozone and Japan. China has indirectly added to the West’s problems by being the largest component of global economic growth. Her massive credit expansion is contributing to higher interest rates elsewhere by financing imports, commodity stockpiles and driving up prices. It is the lack of ability of the ECB and the Fed to raise interest rates sufficiently to counter higher rates of price inflation that’s becoming the most pressing challenge.

Alasdair MacLeod

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What inflation now looks like

I like those elongated cakes with raisins in them referred to on the package as “finger madeleines with raisins”. A few days ago I purchased another stash of them, from the Afghan-run corner shop nearest to me.

They looked like this:

Sorry about the strange blue reflections of something blue in the transparent but shiny packaging, but it is important that you realise that this is a photo of these finger madeleines before I opened them.

Same sized package. Same price. But, six empty spaces where there used to be six finger madeleines. Twenty four finger madeleines instead of thirty finger madeleines.

We are seeing quite a lot of this in the UK just now. Soon the packages and/or the prices will change, but meanwhile, the quickest way to adapt in the short run is just to reduce the amount in the package.

Brexit is not proving to be an economic catastrophe, and I remain very optimistic about it in the longer run, that being why I voted for it. But it is proving something of a dislocation in the short run, if only because the sort of people whose job it was to foresee it mostly did not foresee it. I don’t blame them for this. I did not foresee Brexit either. I merely voted for it.

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Samizdata quote of the day

He [Trump] appears to be entertaining the horrible idea that the people who buy cars ought to be free to decide for themselves how much fuel economy matters to them – since they will be the ones paying for both the car and the gas. And – oh my god! – that this is really none of the business of the “concerned” scientists and other professional busybodies who regard their opinions and preferences as holy writ enforceable at gunpoint.

Eric Peters

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Samizdata quote of the day

But Scottish nationalism is a blind and unreasoning beast, appeals to logic and sentiment will get us nowhere, and we should recognise this fact. If one seriously believes that the Scottish people are being oppressed and having their democratic rights trampled by the Evil English, or that they somehow lack their due influence in our nation’s government despite enjoying political devolution and autonomy far greater than that enjoyed by the UK’s most populous home nation, then a sensible discussion cannot be had.

Samuel Hooper

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Samizdata quote of the day

Evaluating film based on the criteria of diversity can only diminish it. Rather than encouraging people to take a chance and watch films out of their comfort zone, it will instead add more weight to the idea that only certain types of people can, and should, enjoy certain types of films. It also suggests that certain films have authority not because of their artistry, but simply because they are ‘diverse’.

Maren Thom

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The Walking Dead

“Walking Dead” and the rest of television and movie entertainment shows that the left still have not learned the lessons of the the colony the Mayflower founded.

In the “Walking Dead” the world is overrun by zombies – and the remaining humans are either brutal raiders and exploiters, or living in communes where people work together to produce food and so on for the common good. There is no large scale private ownership of anything and no large scale private employment – and it is NOT really because the zombie plague had destroyed the world, it is because the entertainment industry people (and the education system) hate large scale private ownership of the means of production and hate large scale private employment. The moral ideal of both the education system and the media (especially the entertainment media) is the caring-sharing community where everyone loves each other and works for the common good.

This view of humanity is not confined to the “Walking Dead” – it is basically the view offered in all popular entertainment. Either people are working together in little communal “communities” or they are being exploited by evil “capitalists” (“Big Business” – boo-hiss). To the left (i.e. the education system and the media – especially the entertainment media) a “capitalist” is not someone who invests and thus helps produce goods and services, a capitalist is a vicious sadist (such as Negan in “Walking Dead” or a million other “exploiter” examples in literature, television, film and school “history” books) who “exploits” people partly for loot (taking the “product of their labour” – Labour Theory of Value) and partly simply out of sadism, cruelty – the desire to inflict suffering for the pleasure of inflicting suffering.

To the left, the education system and media, a company is a “psychopath” because businessmen seek to maximise profits, and profit (in the minds of the education system and the media) means loot, the exploitation of the workers and consumers. That many media companies are, well, companies does not change this – even many high ranking business executives subscribe to the world view that business is evil as they have never been taught any other world view. Even if they went to a private school and university they were, mostly likely, taught that private property is evil (“selfish”) and that the highest good is a caring-sharing local commune – as we see in “Walking Dead” and a thousand other shows. In their own business dealings they are often indeed very treacherous and seek to cheat both employees and customers – as they have been taught that is what “capitalists” are like, and like the late Robert Maxwell they regard their own immoral conduct as proof that “capitalism” is evil. The obsessive, and dishonest, greed of many on “Wall Street” and their leftist politics are not in contradiction – they are mutually reinforcing.

→ Continue reading: The Walking Dead

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Samizdata quote of the day

The problem is that a lot of data suggests that countries with more robust welfare states tend to have stronger far-right movements. Providing white voters with higher levels of economic security does not tamp down their anxieties about race and immigration — or, more precisely, it doesn’t do it powerfully enough. For some, it frees them to worry less about what it’s in their wallet and more about who may be moving into their neighbourhoods or competing with them for jobs.

Zack Beauchamp, Vox.

(Yes, I am putting up a SQOTD from a lefty news service. If readers’ blood pressure rises, sorry. The article contains a few errors and arguments I don’t agree with, but I like to find signs, or glimmerings, of intelligence wherever I can. Maybe, just maybe it is dawning on some of the smarter souls in the Left that the identity politics game has been a catastrophe, and that some of the so-called solutions for our ills as advocated by socialists/Welfare Statists have been an abject failure. Politics/ideas are in ferment right now, and this article is a sort of suggestion of what the ferment is causing. I also commend the author for the amount of data here.)

I added this to the pushback in the comments:

Let’s consider: the article goes into considerable detail to point the fact that in those countries with high levels of Welfare State spending and the rest, support for the far right has increased often more than among those places with less of this, and the author concludes that one reason might be that citizens in those places feel their welfare frees them up to worry about non-economic issues, such as the allegedly malign impact of foreigners entering a country. That seems to be just as plausible a reading of the facts – and in some ways an original and perceptive one – as the standard line that high welfare has sucked in lots of foreign scroungers who have provoked a backlash. For a start, there is no clear evidence that immigrants in net terms consume more welfare than the indigenous population. Secondly, there is the point that the sort of people who want high welfare spending (paid for, they naively think, by other, richer people) tend to have a zero-sum, economically illiterate view of the world (hence their support for a Welfare State), and people who hold wrong-headed views about the State tend also to hold fearful views about immigrants “taking their jobs” or whatever. And the kind of folk who are turned on by the politics of identity tend, given their collectivist assumptions about life (bosses, workers, them, us, etc) to be the sort who like Big Government.

This article shows why it is no accident that Labour Party voters, who by and large aren’t the sharpest knives in the drawer, have switched to UKIP, or even further to the right, and why socialism often blends very easily with nationalism.

Like I said, what I hope (naively!) this article suggests is that there are people on the Left who are seeing this, and who realise there is a problem. At the very least, rather than simply criticise and pick holes, it is a good idea in my view to engage with these folk, to show where they are correct and draw them out. This is how intellectual shifts occur; smart advocates of liberal free markets and limited government should embrace anyone who seems honestly to be wrestling with what is going on.

 

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Samizdata quote of the day

For decades, often in word but always in deed, politicians have told voters that government debt didn’t matter. We, and many economists, disagree. Yet even if the politicians were right, the absence of available creditors would be an insurmountable problem—were it not for the Federal Reserve. But when the Federal Reserve acts as the lender of last resort, unpleasant realities follow. Because, as everyone should be keenly aware, the Fed simply prints the money it loans.

A century of arguing about how much to increase spending has left us with a debt that dwarfs the annual economic output of the planet.

A Fed loan devalues every dollar already in circulation, from those in people’s savings accounts to those in their pockets. The result is inflation, which is, in essence, a tax on frugal savers to fund a spendthrift government.

Antony Davies & James Harrigan

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Samizdata quote of the day

If cutting that welfare state means that women are getting less out now then that obviously means that before the cuts to the welfare state then women were getting more out.

Tim Worstall

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